‘Matter of life & death’: Trump’s Covid-19 task force projects 100,000+ Americans will die even under tough 30-day isolation

Senior members of the White House Covid-19 task force said Americans should prepare for 100,000 deaths from the pandemic, as the US president warned that following distancing guidelines was now a matter of life and death.

“The answer is yes,” said Dr Anthony Fauci, a top expert on the coronavirus response team, when asked if the US could really see between 100,000 and 240,000 fatalities in the outbreak at a White House press conference on Tuesday, but added that he “hoped” containment measures could reduce the number.

©  White House

Without some drastic social distancing efforts over the next 30 days – which are already underway in a number of states – the team projected up to 2.2 million fatalities.

US President Donald Trump, noting that the next two weeks would be difficult as cases and deaths soar across the country, stressed the need for all Americans to follow social distancing guidance to stem the spread of the illness.

It’s absolutely critical for the American people to follow the guidelines for the next 30 days. It’s a matter of life and death.

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Fauci, however, said the mitigation efforts in place were already paying off, and urged Americans to not be discouraged by the rapidly climbing number of cases, adding that “we are seeing little inklings” that the outbreak was beginning to wane in New York, the country’s major hot spot with over 75,000 infections and some 1,550 deaths.

Though the president extended social distancing guidelines – initially set for 15 days – to the end of April on Monday, Vice President Mike Pence dismissed the idea of a nationwide lockdown akin to measures imposed in France and Italy, stating that the task force had “reasons to believe” the current containment strategy was “working.”

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DOJ audit prompted by FBI spying on Americans finds errors in EVERY sample FISA application

A review of 29 FBI applications to spy on US citizens or residents found mistakes in every single one, and four cases of proper documentation missing entirely, the Justice Department inspector general has revealed.

From a dataset of more than 700 applications under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) submitted by eight FBI field offices, Inspector General Michael Horowitz and his team selected a sample of 29, made between October 2014 and September 2019, pertaining to US citizens or “green card” holders.

They found an average of 20 errors in each one.

The Woods Procedures mandate “compiling supporting documentation for each fact in the FISA application,” Horowitz wrote in his findings, which were made public on Tuesday. Yet his auditors found at least some of that documentation contained erroneous or mistaken information in 25 of the applications – and was entirely missing in four other cases.

“We could not review original Woods Files for 4 of the 29 selected FISA applications because the FBI has not been able to locate them and, in 3 of these instances, did not know if they ever existed,” Horowitz wrote.

The auditors “do not have confidence” the FBI actually followed procedure in any of the cases, the report concluded.

Horowitz’s findings managed to attract a considerable amount of attention on Tuesday, even as the US continued to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. Attorney General Bill Barr was “appalled” at the way the FISA process was abused, resulting “in one of the greatest political travesties in American history,” DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said.

Barr was referring to FBI failure to follow Woods procedures in the four FISA warrants used to spy on the campaign of President Donald Trump – via adviser Carter Page – during and after the 2016 US presidential election. The wider audit followed Horowitz’s findings in December last year that the Page warrants contained at least 17 “significant errors or omissions.” 

Two of those warrants have been ruled improperly obtained since, and the DOJ has moved to “quarantine” information obtained through all four from all pending investigations.

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Even so, Barr and FBI Director Chris Wray insisted that FISA warrants remained a vital and “indispensable” tool to guard the US from national security threats, and urged lawmakers to extend those powers going forward.

Democrats, on the other hand, insisted that the actual takeaway from the audit was that the FBI was not evil, but merely incompetent.

“Further evidence that the problems with the Carter Page FISA applications had nothing to do with Trump, Carter Page, or political bias,” tweeted Michael Bromwich, DOJ IG under the Clinton administration.

Bromwich was also the lawyer for Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford during the attempt by Democrats to block the nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. Her accusation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her back in high school could ultimately not be substantiated.

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‘This is NUTS!’ Russiagaters see red over Putin’s planeload of corona-aid for Trump, queue to look gift-horse in mouth

Russophobic pundits and red-baiting blue-checks are gasping in horror and floating bizarre scenarios as Moscow prepares to send a planeload of much-needed medical supplies to the US amid its worsening coronavirus epidemic.

News that a Russian cargo plane laden with medical supplies and personal protection equipment would soon depart for the US, a gift from the Kremlin to its coronavirus-stricken rival, has the usual suspects running around in circles screeching about ulterior motives.

While President Donald Trump’s announcement on Monday that “Russia sent us a very, very large planeload of things, medical equipment, which was nice” took many by surprise, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the shipment on Tuesday, explaining that Vladimir Putin had asked Trump if the US needed help and he had accepted. Peskov added that he hoped the US would be able to return the favor if it became necessary.

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In the minds of the reds-under-beds crowd, this was an unacceptable “propaganda ploy.” How dare Trump allow Russia to supply Americans with lifesaving medical equipment?!

Others questioned whether the aid really existed in the first place, insisting that Russia didn’t actually have the supplies it was sending.

The Wall Street Journal accused Russia of Viruspolitik,” changing the headline of an earlier story about the “political shift” caused by Moscow’s delivery of medical aid to hard-hit Italy.

No scenario was too outlandish for Russiagaters. Newsweek contributor Olga Lautman hinted that Putin might have slipped in something nasty among the face masks and testing kits, which she assured everyone were defective.

While she didn’t say what exactly the unpleasant surprise might be, she hinted darkly that it (or they – the unexpected passenger could be a person, she implied, albeit one who is allergic to commercial air travel and likes to fly in cargo holds) “will most likely have to do with elections.”

Replies to the high-profile Russiagaters’ tweets were even more unhinged, from accusing Putin of a “coverup” to warnings that the equipment would come pre-infected with coronavirus.

It’s not that the US doesn’t desperately need medical equipment, of course – they just don’t want Russian cooties. A State Department email sent to diplomats in Europe last week and obtained by Foreign Policy confirmed that US officials had been asked to source supplies from any country other than Russia. With over 181,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Tuesday, one might think that beggars can’t be choosers.

The US isn’t the only country that has received help from unexpected quarters. After mostly getting the cold shoulder from its neighbors and the EU, coronavirus-ravaged Italy reached out to Russia, which obliged by sending medical teams and equipment, including 600 direly-needed ventilators, to help battle the outbreak. The thought of Moscow lending a helping hand in the heart of Europe was too much for some to bear, however, and the usual cadre of Atlantic Council-adjacent NATO-botherers focused on circulating an anonymously-sourced story about most of the aid being useless and calling Moscow “Bad Samaritans.”

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Cat-astrophe in the making? ANOTHER feline tests positive for coronavirus, this time in Hong Kong

A pet cat has tested positive for the dreaded Covid-19 coronavirus in Hong Kong, after apparently contracting the disease from its owner. Last week, another feline turned out to have the virus in Belgium.

The Hong Kong cat patient was sent to a special animal quarantine facility on Monday, after its owner, a 25-year-old woman, was confirmed to have contracted the disease. Samples collected from the feline’s oral, nasal and rectal cavities tested positive for the virus, but it did not show any symptoms.

“The cat has not shown any signs of disease,” a spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said Tuesday.

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As of Tuesday, 27 dogs and 15 cats had been held in the quarantine facility. Four of them have already returned home. Earlier this month, two dogs tested positive for coronavirus in Hong Kong – a Pomeranian and a German Shepard. The Pomeranian died two days after being released from quarantine, yet its demise was linked to its progressive age, rather than to the virus – the dog was 17-years-old.

The other dog remains quarantined despite repeatedly testing negative, according to local media reports.

Last Thursday, a cat tested positive for coronavirus in Belgium, after contracting the disease from its owner. Unlike in Hong Kong, the feline did exhibit symptoms of the disease, namely vomiting, diarrhea, and having troubles breathing.

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While the news is surely alarming for pet owners, the number of confirmed human-to-animal transmissions is dwarfed by Covid-19’s toll on humans. Earlier in the day, the global coronavirus tally skyrocketed past 800,000, while the death toll reached well over 41,000.

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Chris Cuomo of CNN tests positive for coronavirus after scolding people who don’t self-isolate

CNN anchor Chris Cuomo is self-quarantining after testing positive for coronavirus, his brother New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has confirmed, proving that even spreading hysterical fear of the virus is no protection from it.

The journalist revealed he had tested positive in a statement posted to Twitter on Tuesday, and his older brother confirmed the diagnosis during his morning coronavirus press conference in Albany, waxing poetic about how the virus was “the great equalizer” even as he reassured reporters that the younger Cuomo was going to pull through.

The CNN anchor explained he found out he had the disease after experiencing coronavirus symptoms and being exposed to people who’d tested positive. He will continue broadcasting his show from his basement in New York, where he has self-quarantined, he said, adding that he was “feeling well.”

Cuomo revealed his illness the morning after sharing a cringeworthy family moment on air with his elder brother, who jokingly called him “manipulative” and affectionately referred to him as the “meatball” of the family.

The CNN anchor has done his part to pump up fear of the virus, encouraging his audience to think of it as “our 9/11” and throwing around potential death tolls as high as six million. Along with his fellow CNN talking heads, he has focused on excoriating President Donald Trump’s response to the pandemic, from slamming the use of the term “Chinese virus” to repeatedly warning that the epidemic “hasn’t even begun” and is going to get a lot worse.

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Cuomo’s coverage of the epidemic has also been deeply critical of anyone reluctant to “surrender the ‘me’ to the ‘we” and follow orders. He accused those who questioned the wisdom of locking down the majority of the US population of “pulling a Trump” and reminded his audience that “we’re in a war.”

But while he was scolding Americans who resented being put out of work as the country flew into a belated panic over the pandemic, Cuomo was commuting to and from CNN headquarters in New York, an “essential worker” under his older brother’s definition.

Twitter had mixed feelings about Cuomo’s diagnosis. Many, of course, wished him a speedy recovery, with even those who normally denounce “fake news” CNN putting aside their political differences…sort of.

Others weren’t so charitable, taking the opportunity to denounce Cuomo as a “left-wing rich elitist.”

The #Resistance braced for an incoming Trump-slap…

…while conservatives pointed out that if the shoe was on the other foot, liberals would be dancing on a coronavirus-stricken Fox host’s grave.

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Coup plan B! US tells Guaido he may renounce his Venezuela ‘presidency’ claim – but they’ll still support him

The US State Department magnanimously agreed that opposition politician Juan Guaido may not actually be president of Venezuela, but insisted he still has to be part of a transition government if Caracas wants sanctions relief.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put forth a “democratic transition framework” on Tuesday, under which Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro would set up a power-sharing interim government with Guaido, that would arrange for elections in six months to a year. 

According to Pompeo, the proposal “protects the interests and equities of all Venezuelan people who desperately seek a resolution to their dire political, economic and humanitarian crisis,” and he urged all sides to “carefully and seriously” consider it.

The US and EU would lift their sanctions against Venezuela – including a ban on oil exports and on Maduro and his colleagues personally – if and when the initiative is “fully implemented,” the State Department said.

Within hours, the government in Caracas rejected the US plan, calling it a “a pseudo-interventionist proposal for a supervised government.” 

Venezuela does not accept, nor will it ever accept any tutelage, from any foreign government.

Washington and a score of its allies have stubbornly maintained since January 2019 that Guaido is the true president of Venezuela. Tuesday’s proposal is a tacit admission that his claim is void – but that does not mean the US is giving up on its dreams of regime change.

“We’ve made clear all along that Nicolas Maduro will never again govern Venezuela,” Pompeo told reporters, adding that the State Department “worked closely” with Guaido when they put together the proposal, and continue to support him.

“I think he’s the most popular politician in Venezuela. I think if there were an election held today, he could do incredibly well,” Pompeo said, when asked about Guaido. 

In reality, the 36-year-old politician repeatedly failed to muster any decisive support for his claim in Venezuela, despite millions of dollars in US funding, and crushing sanctions targeting Maduro’s government as well as the country in general. Less than a hundred troops answered Guaido’s call for an armed uprising at the end of April 2019.

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Just last week, the US charged Maduro with conspiring with Colombian Communists to flood the US with drugs and offered a $15 million bounty for his capture. It was a transparent ploy if ever there was one, since it was Guaido who was photographed in the company of Colombian drug-runners who helped him get back and forth across the border.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza called the charges “a new form of coup d’etat” and said it showed the “desperation” of the “Washington elite,” and their “obsession” with Venezuela.

Just hours before the State Department announcement, a court in Caracas summoned Guaido to appear next Thursday and answer questions about a weapons cache intercepted at the border with Colombia, calling him a suspect in an “attempted coup and assassination” plot.

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Maduro has pleaded with the UN and other international organizations for relief from the US blockade, citing the Covid-19 pandemic that has affected Venezuela, but so far his calls have fallen on deaf ears.

Pompeo’s new proposal for Venezuela is essentially a copy of the US-backed peace initiative for Syria circa 2015, which also insisted on the need for regime change and establishment of a transitional government with “moderate rebels.” That plan eventually fell through after Russia sent an expeditionary force to help the government in Damascus deal with jihadist militants and Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists, sidelining the US.

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US overtakes China’s coronavirus toll with more than 3,400 dead

The number of people who have died from the coronavirus outbreak in the US has surpassed that of China. The US tops the list of the Covid-19 affected nations worldwide, with more than 174,000 confirmed cases.

In China, 3,309 people have succumbed to the disease, while the US toll currently stands at 3,416, according to the latest data by John Hopkins University. More than 12,000 newly detected cases were confirmed in the US on Tuesday, bringing the total tally to a staggering number of 174,467 cases.

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The situation in China — which was hit by the deadly pandemic first — has greatly improved in recent weeks, according to official figures. The country has less than 3,000 active cases, while its total number of people infected by the virus stands at around 82,200.

Chinese authorities have already reportedly re-opened live animal markets at certain locations across the country. While the exact source of the virus is still debated, a wet market in the city of Wuhan, in Hubei province, is widely believed to be ground zero of the outbreak.

Worldwide, the coronavirus spread continues and its total tally has broken past the 800,000 mark earlier Tuesday. So far, more than 40,000 people have died from the disease across the globe.

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Game over: Wimbledon set for first cancellation since World War II as coronavirus continues to ravage sporting calendar

The most famous tennis tournament of them all, Wimbledon, appears certain to be the latest major sports event to be affected by the outbreak of Covid-19 as the All England Club braces itself to announce its cancellation.

Wimbledon officials announced last week that several options were on the table ahead of a final decision being made regarding the hosting this summer’s grass-court spectacular.

But as the rate of Covid-19 infections increases in the English capital, it is appearing more and more likely that the 2020 championships will not proceed. It would be the first time since 1945 that the tournament hasn’t taken place as planned.

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The All England Club had hoped to hold off on making a decision until a later date, but a final call appears imminent after chief executive Richard Lewis confirmed that an emergency board meeting was to take place this week. 

German tennis federation vice-president Dirk Hordorff fueled speculation by telling Sky Sports Germany that the cancellation of Wimbledon has already been decided upon and would be revealed on Wednesday. 

I am also involved in the bodies of the ATP and WTA. The necessary decisions have already been made there and Wimbledon will decide to cancel next Wednesday. There is no doubt about it,” Hordorff said. 

This is necessary in the current situation. It is completely unrealistic to imagine that, with the travel restrictions that we currently have, an international tennis tournament where hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world would travel (can happen). That is unthinkable.”

Organizers of the French Open provoked anger among the tennis community when they unilaterally announced that their tournament would be pushed back from May/June to September/October without consultation with other tennis stakeholders or officials. But a similar measure for Wimbledon has been deemed impractical, given the specific requirements needed for grass-court play.

Meanwhile, Horndorff also said that French Open officials are attempting to reconcile anger within the tennis world at the postponement of the event, but also admitted that he doesn’t expect that tournament to go ahead anyway.

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I can simply predict that the French Open will not be relocated as it was intended,” said Hordorff.

Either it will let itself be included in a sensible plan with the entire tennis family or it will feel the consequences of the entire tennis family. It will be deprived of (ranking) points and will degenerate into a chaos event.

Even people there have understood that and they are slowly creeping back. Solidarity is the order of the day. It is a matter of being together and not going it alone, as the president of the French tennis federation did.”

Russian Covid-19 plane aid to US: Putin asked Trump if he needed help & he accepted, Kremlin spokesman says

A cargo plane loaded with medical supplies and protection equipment may depart for the US by the end of the day Tuesday, the Kremlin said after a phone call between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The issue of protective gear was raised during the Monday phone talks, with Putin asking if the US needed help and Trump accepting, Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday.

Moscow suggested the aid in anticipation that the US will be able to return the favor if necessary, once its manufacturers of medical and protective equipment catch up with the demand, Peskov said.

The current situation “affects everyone without exception and is of a global nature,” he added.

There is no alternative to acting together in the spirit of partnership and mutual assistance.

On Monday, Trump told reporters at the White House press briefing that “Russia sent us a very, very large planeload of things, medical equipment, which was very nice.”

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The comment left everyone scratching their heads, as no one in the US seemed to know anything about the plane in question. It appears the US president was referring to the aid arranged on the phone call as something that’s already happened.

Peskov chastised “some of the American side” who “at least did not contribute to the prompt resolution of technical issues” regarding the agreed-upon delivery, which could explain the delay.

Official data show the US has been hardest-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, with almost 175,000 confirmed cases and 3,416 deaths as of Tuesday afternoon – overtaking China, where the contagion originated in December, Italy still has the highest death toll in the world, at 12,428.

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France records worst day of Covid-19 deaths as health official laments ‘totally unprecedented’ situation

Health officials in France have confirmed the worst one-day fatalities from Covid-19 since the start of the outbreak there, with 499 deaths in a single day. The figure brings the country’s overall toll from the virus to 3,523.

The new tally marks a third consecutive day of increased coronavirus deaths in France.

Delivering the figures in a press briefing on Tuesday, Director General of Health Jérôme Salomon described the situation as “totally unprecedented in the history of French medicine.” 

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The number of total confirmed cases rose by some 17 percent to 52,128, with over 22,700 people currently hospitalized with the illness. The death toll is expected to rise even higher once the data starts taking into account deaths in retirement homes, as well as in hospitals.

The news comes soon after global coronavirus deaths rose above 40,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the US and the AFP news agency. Worldwide, more than 820,000 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 since the outbreak was first recorded late last year in China.

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